Accessibility, inclusion and safety: a doable challenge

Accessibility, inclusion and safety: a doable challenge

22 January 2020 Off By Facto Edizioni

/ by Gianni Chiari /

This month Gianni Chiari writes his article as the head of the “Una Giostra per Tutti” project and speaks about phase 2, currently in preparation.

Gianni Chiari /  Member of CEN/TC 152, ASTM F 24, ISO/TC254 Technical Committees 

Seven years have passed since the start of “Una Giostra per Tutti” (A Ride for Everyone), an Italian project that has since made its way around the world. For the first time, the behaviour of people with down syndrome on rides has been tested scientifically. Even though the sample size was limited, the results were important and objective, and under the supervision of the Italian Institute of Health. This project has now opened the way for further developments.

It is certainly not an easy challenge, as we are all aware. Rides are wonderful machines that give excitement and thrills, and bring fun and joy while keeping risks under control. Yet we must not forget that they are machines, and as such, if not used correctly, can involve some risks.

I have always said that unfortunately it will never be possible to have everyone be able to use every ride. It would be great to be able to do so, but there are limits, and these limits often depend on the individual, their personal conditions, including their health.

Riders demand new thrills, which are expressed by ever more dynamic rides, which are bigger and bigger, have higher performance and engaging and interactive movements. In response to this trend ‘demanded’ by our guests, the designers and manufacturers of rides are continuously inventing new ways of creating experiences, made up of physical, sensorial and cognitive-emotional stressors.

Yet not all of us react the same way to these stressors. An ‘able-bodied’ person who panics in a certain situation where they perceive an imminent danger does not necessarily behave in a ‘safer’ way than another person with cognitive disabilities in the same situation. This opens almost infinite scenarios, with the many discussions that accompany them.

One thing is certain however: social sensitivity towards people with special needs is growing year after year, as are the demands to guarantee maximum accessibility, yet always in safe conditions. This is a challenge that our sector can no longer avoid and needs to face with determination. While the first phase of the “Una Giostra per Tutti” project was useful in creating a technical, scientific and operational outline, it is now time to complete it with an in-depth phase that will offer solutions for ride accessibility that are as practical as possible. To do this, different high-level skills need to be brought together. We need specialists in biomechanics, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, designers, park operators, people with special needs, who working together can analyse the ride/guest interface in relation to the physical, sensory and cognitive, emotional and operational aspects. In addition to all of this is the possibility of emergency situations where, for example, the ride needs to be evacuated from a remote position. These aspects are by no means trivial and we need to guarantee the same high level of safety that our sector has fortunately always been able to do.

For these reasons and due to the growing need to extend accessibility, we are preparing phase 2 of the “Una Giostra per Tutti” project, which we could define as “from theory to practice”. What do we mean by this simple phrase? That there is the need to conduct studies and tests to give concrete guidelines for possible technical and procedural solutions that manufacturers and parks can use to make rides accessible to the greatest number of people, with differing physical, sensory and cognitive abilities. We are organising research that will involve institutions, research centres, universities and a large number of experts. We are also establishing a series of international partnerships, because this is a problem for everyone who works in the parks and attractions sector.

It is certainly a very complex and delicate challenge, due to a lack of specific studies and consolidated protocols. There is however a lot of experience and a great desire to achieve these objectives. 

It would also be important to be able to transform what is now seen as a problem into a business opportunity. This would give significant stimulus to the work and help achieve results in a much shorter time. I think the leisure industry underestimates the potential of accessible tourism. To date, based on our research, approximately 1.5% of guests at parks are people with special needs. It should not be forgotten that each of these people brings with them companions and family members, giving an important multiplicative factor. This percentage could increase considerably if parks and rides were more accessible. Research conducted by the European Union in May 2018 showed that accessible tourism at a European level could reach a turnover of more than 394 billion euros, and there are those who estimate a further 142 billion as the potential expands. If we manage to capture just 1% of this, our revenues would be about 13 times higher than that of all Italian amusement parks put together.

Last but certainly not least, we must not forget the social responsibility we all have and feel, in our sector more than in others. We offer fun and excitement, and we cannot avoid facing this demanding challenge. 

The goal and dream is to achieve concrete results within 2 years. I hope these few simple notes give an idea of what is being done to give practical answers. This project is also partly a dream… but we know that in the world of amusement parks and rides, dreams can come true.

Taken from Games&Parks Industry January 2020, page 76

Gianni Chiari /  Member of CEN/TC 152, ASTM F 24, ISO/TC254 Technical Committees and “Una Giostra per Tutti” project manager.